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Friday
Mar192010

Designer Dramas

I am one of those strange people who actually enjoys going to work. Aside from the fact that in this economy I am beyond grateful just to have a job, I have the honor to work with some of the worlds most talented and (more importantly) amusing designers. If your co-workers have monikers like Sparkle Barbie, Twinkie Ho and Poochie Santarita your day is unlikely to be dull. Add into the mix a ton of inspiring international design projects (all with impossible deadlines) a smorgasbord staff of 30 and a boss that calls me his Zulu Princess (I was born in South Africa) and it becomes apparent that my working environment is quite colorful before we even start designing. My department is FF&E aka The Fluffies. We are the girls (sorry Marc you are one of the girls that's why we called you Twinkie) who choose the fabrics, furniture, light fixtures and other essentials and then produce all the associated documentation. I know this sounds like a cushy job but trust me, our lives are extremely stressful. The only way we get through the working week with our mental and physical health intact is a ton of laughter and a stash of good chocolate. BTW ( in case the owners are reading this) we also work VERY VERY hard. 

This week the horizon brightened with the arrival of Snow White. This girl is drop dead gorgeous, she really has it ALL. The long black hair, perfect skin (as white as snow) and beautiful red lips. Needless to say it wasn't long before the seven dwarfs were lining up to do her bidding. As if by magic Sleazy, Gropey, Humpy and Jock were available to set up her new workstation and get the computer connected to the server. Frumpy, Sappy, and Creepy hovered in the background, tools at the ready to deal with any emergency. Thanks guys, very sweet but please remember she already has a prince and the dwarfs are her FRIENDS. Fortunately Snow White isn't just eye candy, she is talented, intelligent, funny and will be an asset to our Fluffie group; ergo we withered old FF&E hags have also fallen in love with her and don't feel the need to offer her poisoned fruit.

Since I wish to keep my job I will refer to the company as Very Lucky Designs (pronounce welly wrucky as our main office is in Hong Kong and most of the projects are in China) or VLD. On the other side or the world is another team of VLD people (the yin to our yang) who have the misfortune of being a lot closer to the clients. Sometimes one of us is dispatched to HQ for an indeterminate period of time to help deal with the latest crisis. This is a lot more dangerous than it sounds especially when your return ticket is flexible or non-existent. Right before Christmas one of our Hong Kong staff was held hostage in China for several days - the ransom  a drawing package (yet another unrealistic deadline) to be delivered to a client who clearly needs to see a therapist asap. We all worked around the clock to “FREE RONALD!” and “GET RONALD HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!” It's amazing how motivated people can be for a worthy cause and I am happy to report that we met the deadline and our colleague was released unharmed. Just another average working week for the VLD justice league.

 


Thursday
Mar182010

Home Is Where The Tart Is

I have a confession to make. Over the years I have shamelessly lured my children home with edible treats. I have boiled, stewed and baked my way into their hearts. There are several reasons for this:

1. I have Jewish Mother tendencies and therefore an overwhelming need to feed those I love.

2. My own Mom was a great cook but being divorced and working full time our family meals were few and far between.

3. I somehow felt validated when the boys turned up with ten friends in tow to demolish my creations.

Of course there have been numerous culinary disasters along the way, many nights when I've been crushed by their less than enthusiastic response to my ill advised experiments; but the proof is in the pudding and my Pavlovas have never failed to sell out seats at my dinner table. 

Now that my kids have (sort of) left home I've had to up the ante as they have a lot further to travel to break bread with us. Times had changed and I needed to add a new dessert to my repertoire; and so began the quest for perfect profiteroles. My mother loves to watch me cook and since she lives thousands of miles away I usually Skype her from my kitchen so that she can have a good laugh as I massacre a recipe or two (think Domestic Goddess on crack.) It's like my own cooking show with an audience of one.

The thing about cooking is that it's far from an exact science so no matter how closely you follow the instructions there is always an element of risk. Which is how after my beautiful, perfect choux pastry balls emerged from the oven and got stuffed with fabulous fluffy whipped cream (lots of oohs and aahs from my mother via the computer) and drizzled with divine chocolate sauce, my sons enthusiastically bit into them and then immediately spat them out screaming “OMG MOM!!!!! THESE ARE DISGUSTING ARE YOU TRYING TO POISON US?”

So what went wrong? Well it turns out I hadn't used the right chocolate to make the sauce and it was unbearably bitter. 

I am not a quitter so the following day I made them all over again (Mother once again riveted to her screen) me resplendent in my new Williams & Sonoma red apron (think Domestic Goddess on anti-depressants) but this time I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate baking chips for the sauce et voilla! It was really that simple, perfect profiteroles and big hugs from the boys as they left for Palm Beach International Airport with full tummies and smiles on their faces.

Profiteroles (2nd attempt)

Perfect Pavlova. (Photo by Chris Martin who has eaten quite a few of these.) 

Wednesday
Mar172010

Flower Power

I am trying to improve my marriage by making an effort not to dwell on trivial issues. I am also working on anger management for the more serious transgressions like my husband crossing the threshold with yet another garage forecourt-style bouquet of chrysanthemums (which as you may know, I detest.) I was beginning to wonder if he actually had a death wish since I have told him so many times how much I truly despise them. However over lunch last Sunday I had an epiphany - my precious doesn't actually know what a flipping chrysanthemum is! Of course he didn't admit it there and then but my suspicions were confirmed later that night when I was the proud recipient of a beautiful bunch of lilies whereafter Mufasa confessed that as the florist was wrapping his original choices he had plucked up the courage to ask if any of them were chrysanthemums and was mortified to learn that they ALL were!

It just goes to show that even the most well intentioned act of kindness can turn into a disaster if you haven't done your homework. Seriously, we girls are not that hard to please but nothing will upset us quicker than feeling like our men have tuned us out or relegated what we are trying to say into the nagging category. The other night for instance, Mufasa was cleaning the dishes from dinner (he really is a treasure) when I specifically requested that he NOT put my new knives in the dishwasher. My new knives were a very expensive gift from my brother and are the first sharp knives I have ever owned. My cooking has improved no end since their arrival and my husband doesn't seem in the least concerned that I now have a set of effective weapons handy for PMS induced irrational episodes. So picture the scene the next morning when I opened the dishwasher and saw four of my new knives gleaming back at me. Since it was actually that time of the month I flew upstairs in an over-reactive rage and demanded to know if “you ever actually listen to a THING I say?” Mufasa was still half asleep and failed to realize the seriousness of the situation so unfortunately the whole thing got ugly rather quickly. voices were raised, tears were shed (because of course I am SO misunderstood) and it was at least an hour before we kissed and made up (after suitable sincere apology from husband.)

Two days later my husband had his sweet revenge when, on opening the dishwasher that I had previously loaded he discovered ALL the new knives happily nestled in the cutlery basket. That is one great big piece of humble pie that I am clearly going to be eating for several weeks or at least until he comes home with another bunch of chrysanthemums.

Monday
Mar152010

Real Men Don't Need Quiche

When I have the time and energy to do more than open a Stouffers Lasagne, I pride myself on being able to whip up a veritable gastronomic feast and expect due appreciation. It was on just such an occasion that having produced a delightful spinach and gorgonzola quiche (recipe below) that my husband took one large mouthful and said “What's this?”  In a tone which left no doubt that he thought it was absolutely revolting. 

Never one to over-react I leapt up from the table screaming like a banshee “WHAT DO YOU MEAN? YOU DON'T LIKE IT?!! IT'S WONDERFUL”

“I don't like gorgonzola” he admitted  “I've never liked gorgonzola.”

“Oh GREAT” I shouted (doing my Basil Fawlty impression) “so now you don't like garlic, raw onions, pastries, baked potatoes, nuts in chocolate, butter on your vegetables, anything in batter, chutney, ginger AND gorgonzola!”

Mufasa remained calm and picked at the salad on his plate while pushing his quiche to the side in a martyr like fashion. I was seized by a childish and overwhelming desire to tip the whole lot over his head but common sense prevailed and I stomped into the kitchen returning some minutes later with a replacement meal of fish fingers and baked beans. This was demolished gratefully, convincing me that I should reserve vaguely sophisticated food for my girl lunches.

Once satiated Mufasa was more than willing to apologize for his appalling and ungrateful attitude and to say he would fully understand if I never made quiche again.

Spinach and Gorgonzola Quiche

1 Pillsbury pie crust

24 oz  of  frozen spinach well drained

1 cup of crumbled gorgonzola cheese

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

6 eggs

2 tbsp. of heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste 

1. Preheat oven to 375

2. Press crust into 9" pie dish and prick bottom and sides with fork

3. In a separate bowl combine defrosted spinach and cheeses and then spread mixture evenly in pie shell

4. beat eggs cream and seasoning and pour over top of pie/filling.

5. Bake @ 375 for 40 to 45 mins or until golden, set and puffed up.

Devour with a glass of  Sauvignon Blanc (if your husband doesn't like the quiche ignore him and finish the bottle)

395 Cals for one slice (6th of quiche)

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